Randomness: Off with its heads (and tails)

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Although widely investigated and used in psychology, the concept of
randomness is beset with philosophical and practical difficulties. In this paper, I
propose a resolution to a long-standing problem in psychological research by
arguing that the inability to comprehend and produce random behavior is not caused
by a defect on the part of the observer but is a consequence of conceptual confusion. Randomness describes a state of high complexity which defies analysis and understanding. The well-known biases in predictive behavior (e.g. hot-hand and gambler’s fallacy) are not caused by the observers’ inability to comprehend randomness but reflect a natural pattern-seeking response to high-complexity situations. Further, I address the circularity at the heart of the randomness debate. Replacing randomness with complexity in psychology and cognitive science would eliminate many of the current problems associated with defining, investigating and using this elusive term.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMind and Society
Publication statusPublished - 2015

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